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“Clean” Skincare and Beauty Products May Not Always Be Safe

Parabens, petrolatum and even some sunscreen ingredients have been denounced by “clean” skin care and beauty supporters, claiming that these and many other chemical ingredients should be banned for being harmful.

However, dermatologists caution that “clean” skin care products that are free of certain chemicals are not always safer than their traditional counterparts.
“Clean” is still an arbitrary term

For a start, the naming or description of products using the words “clean” or “natural” are arbitrary and not regulated. What’s more, many of these products contain high concentrations of other seemingly natural or ‘clean’ ingredients that can also be the cause of skin irritation and allergies. This is why as the ‘clean’ skin care market grows, dermatologists around the world see a trend of patients reporting allergic reactions to these products.

The ‘clean beauty’ movement is basically a marketing strategy that is meant to inspire people to choose natural over synthetic products. The idea is that the buying and using these “clean” beauty and skincare products gives the consumer a greater sense of wellbeing, thereby making these products more attractive to conscientious shoppers.

Allergic reactions linked to natural ingredients

As dermatologists, we have seen a trend in recent years of patients reporting allergic reactions like contact dermatitis, or itchy rashes, which can be linked to botanical or natural ingredients in beauty products. Thus, we believe that a more balanced and logical approach is needed when choosing which products to use on our skin.

Inaccurate labelling of “unsafe” ingredients

Many “clean” skincare enthusiasts have ignited fear among consumers, claiming that some chemicals in traditional products are unsafe, often condemning these ingredients without concrete proof they’re toxic or harmful.

Several companies and retailers that claim to be all about “clean” cosmetics have released lists of ingredients that shouldn’t be used. For instance, petrolatum, which dermatologists recommend to patients because it is so non allergenic.

Similarly, many natural brands declare that the use of parabens should be avoided, while on the other hand, the American Contact Dermatitis Society named Parabens the 2019 “non allergenic of the year.” It is worthwhile to note that parabens have some of the lowest rates of allergic reactions, between 0.5% and 1.4% of users.
“Natural” is a complicated term
Why “natural” isn’t always better? Many natural products contain high concentrations of botanical extracts that can cause users’ skin to break into rashes and allergies.

One of the commonest “natural” ingredients in “clean” skincare products is essential oils and they are one of the main culprits that trigger skin problems. Direct exposure to undiluted or high concentrations of essential oils on the skin can cause horrible reactions and severe allergies.

Natural may sound like a better choice when it comes to what we are applying on our skin but one should note that there are many toxic chemicals that occur in nature — mercury, snake venom, arsenic, and so on. It’s important to understand that although many “clean” or “natural” ingredients come from natural sources, “natural” does not always mean that it’s a safer or better option for your skin.

Also good to note-worthy is the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t have a definition for “clean” or “natural,” which leaves product labels ambiguous and open to wide and varied interpretation.

What we as dermatologists are concerned about is the safety of the products first, which is why non allergenicity and then efficacy is what we recommend our patients to focus on beyond if a skincare brand is labelled as “clean” or “natural”.
References:

'Clean' beauty products not always safe, dermatologists say (2019, Oct 3), from : 
https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN1WH2AC

Natural Does Not Mean Safe—The Dirt on Clean Beauty Products (2019, Sep 25), from : 
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamader-matology/fullarticle/2751513

Natural Doesn't Necessarily Mean Safer, or Better from : 
https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/know-science/natural-doesnt-mean-better

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